Welcome to SPFBO 6 and my brand new feature, Party with the Stars! Have you ever wondered what might happen if you could throw a party of your choice and not only could you invite your MC(s) but other literary figures as well? In this feature, I ask you to imagine exactly that scenario and some more. Meet Jonathan Pembroke and let’s get the party started!
aka The Author
Jonathan Pembroke resides in the deserts of the American southwest with his wife Lisa and a horde of unruly dogs, where he writes odd fantasy. He is a military veteran and was a meteorologist in a former life. His first novel, Pilgrimage to Skara, was a finalist in SPFBO 3 (2017). This year’s entry, Rumble in Woodhollow, is the first of The Holly Sisters trilogy; the next book, The Mauler, will be released Aug 2020.
aka The MC(s)
Sydney, our protagonist–She’s intelligent but a little naive, sarcastic but a little unsure of herself, and attractive but incompetent.
Marla, Sydney’s big sister–The head of the Faery Gang, she’s tough, resourceful, and direct. She has a habit of chewing cigars.
Markus, Marla’s lieutenant–Big, strong, and handsome, he can play the thief, warrior, or diplomat with equal skill. A flirt and a lady-killer.
Lila, Marla’s record-keeper and Sydney’s best friend–Petite and adorable, she’s also quick-witted and capable.
Vivian–The gang airhead…or so it seems. Loves to run her mouth but listens more than she lets on.
Oh, I think these faeries would love to have Falstaff (from various Shakespeare works) along for the ride. That guy knows how to put it away. They would, however, turn away Ben Sanderson (from Leaving Las Vegas) at the door. Faeries don’t want anyone to drink themselves to death on their watch.
The Main Attraction
Faeries keep is simple. Garth, the bartender at their tavern, will likely wheel out three kegs of ale to the center of the floor and they’ll drink until they pass out or fall in bed together.
Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond
A classic, feel-good song to open things up and get everyone in the mood.
Let’s Groove by Earth, Wind and Fire
Now that the party is truly underway, it’s time to dance and faeries love something with a strong instrumental beat. Plus, it’s damn near impossible to be in a bad mood when listening to this song!
Breed by Nirvana
Pick up the tempo, lean heavy on the drums, slam-dance until your wings fall off. If any furniture gets broken, this will be the song when it happens.
When Will I See You Again by the Three Degrees
As things start to slow down and wind down, as drinks start to get empty, and faeries move from the party phase to feeling maudlin or leaning on each other. The soft tones are great for easing into that next phase: sleeping it off.
Closing Time by Semisonic
All there in the lyrics. “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.” Actually, they can, since they all live upstairs from their tavern but still….
aka Who Let the MC(s) Loose?
Sydney will sit in the corner, sip her drink, and watch everything going on. Marla will run the drinking contest, over talk everyone else, and maybe start a fistfight. Markus will flirt, steal a kiss, and bounce out anyone who tries to kill the buzz. Lila will fetch drinks, laugh and chatter, and play wingwoman to help her friends hook up. Vivian will be the first one dancing on a table.
The above is–largely–tongue-in-cheek. Sydney and her cohorts do more than drink. They, uhm, also run drugs and engage in some other fracturing of the law. But I hope this has given you a little insight (and perhaps piqued your interest) in a story about a street gang of faeries and one young lady who is just trying to find her place in the world.
I’d like to express my thanks to the RSBA crew for this opportunity, and to Mark and all the SPFBO judges for keeping this show running. Last, I encourage everyone in the contest to take advantage of chance to meet people, learn from them, and network. To me, that has been the biggest & best takeaway of the whole thing. Cheers!
Jonathan Pembroke submitted Rumble in Woodhollow to SPFBO. You can connect with the author here:
To read about more parties and to follow our process in SPFBO 6, please visit my SPFBO 6 Phase 1 page!
Excerpt from Rumble in Woodhollow by Jonathan Pembroke
The young faery paused at the north edge of the plaza. Huh, she thought. The Log isn’t what I expected.
The other buildings lining the perimeter of Bayberry Square were shops of stone and mortar, with broad glass windows displaying their wares. Occupying the entire western edge of the square, The Log appeared exactly as its name implied: a great fallen oak with a tangle of roots at the north end and a collection of shorn branches at the other. A wall of red bricks sealed the end of what would have been the tree’s base. Rows of wide windows had been carved in the trunk and the top leveled, providing a flat roof bound by a waist-high brick wall. A painted sign proclaiming the tavern’s name hung over stout double doors.
I guess I didn’t think it was an actual log. Sydney furrowed her eyebrows. Still, it’s not much of a hideout.
A trio of goblins shouldered past her. Sydney said, “Hey.”
The three stopped and stared at her. Each wore a frown on their green-skinned faces. Like most goblins, they were shorter than her own five-and-half feet and broader in the shoulders. All three wore spark-scarred leather aprons over their tunics and trousers.
The nearest goblin narrowed his eyes. “Whadda ya want?”
“What do you know about that tavern?”
The goblin snorted. “You’re a faery, you tell me.”
“I’m new to town, so I don’t know. Have you been in there?”
“You stupid? Of course we’ve been in there. Everyone who’s anyone has been in there.” He flicked his eyes up and down her frame. “You going to work there? On stage?”
“Just as well. You’re not bad but with that knockout they have singing, if the audience had to put up with you instead, they’d get bored and leave. Maybe they can put you to work doing dishes or something.”
The goblins laughed and walked away.
A nearby trow and dark elf strode past. By the amused looks on their faces, Sydney could tell they heard every word. The trow said, “Think she’ll last long?”
“Maybe Marla will take pity on her.” The elf laughed. “If not, I give her a week.”
She glared at them and muttered under her breath. “Assholes.”
“Well, then. You must be Sydney.”
She turned to the source of the voice.
A faery leaned against the corner of a nearby lightstone post, his arms folded. He was close to six feet tall and slender, though his arms rippled with muscle and sinew. He wore a sleeveless white tunic over scarlet calf-length breeches. A wide black silk sash circled his waist, giving him a somewhat piratical look—the thought of which would have brought a smile to her face if she hadn’t been so annoyed.
“Yeah, I’m Sydney. Who the hell are you?”
He smiled, took a few steps towards her, then bowed. “Markus.”
She glanced at his wings as he straightened, which were pale yellow with streaks of blue. “Thistle Clan?”
“Of course. And you’re Holly Clan.”
“Holly Clan has pink wings with dark red highlights.”
Markus nodded. “Even though your colors are random, you were born into the Holly Clan, weren’t you?”
“How do you—”
“How do you think?”
Sydney hesitated. “Marla told you?”
“She described you to a tee. Medium height, blue eyes, auburn hair you normally wear in a ponytail, like you have it now. Cute face. And the same blue-dotted gray wings your father had.” He paused. “Not too many faeries arriving in Woodhollow today match that description.”
“She had you waiting for me out here? Why?”
“You’ll have to ask her.”
Markus extended his hand for her worn-floral print suitcase but Sydney shook her head. “I got it.”
“If you say so. Come on inside.”
Sydney fell in next to him. She stole a couple of sidelong glances at Markus, noting his strong jawline, collar-length curly black hair, and sparkling green eyes. He moved with confidence and purpose. The more she looked at him, the more Sydney’s irritation dwindled. A trickle of desire leaked into her thoughts.
Okay, Sydney: he’s hot. And it’s been a while since I broke things off with Jacob. I wonder…. She glanced at him again as a second notion occurred. But if he and Marla—
She pushed the thought from her mind.
Markus led her to the double doors at the tavern’s entrance.
She said, “What’s the deal with this tree? Seems kind of….”
“The Log has been here in Woodhollow forever. It’s changed hands a lot over the centuries and even though it looks a little run-down, it’s one of the strongest buildings in town. It carries quite a bit of prestige for whoever holds it.”
“That’s perfect. Hiding a gang headquarters in a building where everyone knows about it. Marla’s not as bright as I thought.”
“Are you going to say that to her face?” Markus laughed when Sydney looked away. “Besides, it doesn’t matter if a gang operates in the open when most everyone is afraid to move against it. And even if folks weren’t intimidated we have other assets.”
A pair of drunken dwarves emerged from The Log and staggered past them. Markus held the door for her.
Tables and benches, filled with drunken creatures, crammed the long tavern room. Brownies and landvaettir drank together at one table, dryads and wood elves at another, vilas and trows at a third. Patrons careened in various directions, slopping ale and wine on one another. Odd verses of drinking songs filled the air.
A faery of perhaps forty years, with a pair of blonde braids, a lined, scowling face, wide hips, and wearing a barmaid’s dress, nearly collided with them. She made an exaggerated motion of hefting a tray lined with empty mugs out their way. Her wings—similar in color to Markus’s—quivered in exasperation. “Damn it, Markus, watch where you’re going.”
The waitress eyed Sydney. “Who’s this?”
“Sydney. She’s the one Marla was waiting for.”
“Hmph. Not what I expected. From the way Marla talked, I figured she’d be ten feet tall and breathing fire.” Before Sydney could say anything, Robin whirled into the crowd, snatching up empty mugs and slapping away wandering hands from the folds of her dress.
Sydney snorted. “She’s a real peach.”
“Don’t mind Robin.” Markus closed the outer doors behind them. “She’s always crabby when she’s working. It’s the only way she can deal with getting groped all the time.”
“You guys allow that in here?”
He shrugged. “I think the regulars do it more to get under her skin than to actually cop a feel. Of course, sometimes they take it too far and she ends up decking one of them.”
“She’s also Thistle Clan. You related?”
“Distant cousins. Her and her brother Garth—” He motioned to another middle-aged faery behind the bar. ”—handle the day-to-day drink service in the tavern.”
The lightstones about the room dimmed, save for the handful at the far end over a small stage. The crowd cheered and banged their mugs on tabletops.
A buxom faery with long dark hair and wearing a low-cut red-sequined dress with a thigh-high slit sauntered onto the stage. She waved and simpered to the crowd, bending low to give them plenty of looks at her deep cleavage. Sydney wasn’t sure it was possible but the roar of the mob grew even louder.
The woman opened her mouth and out came the most beautifully melodious voice Sydney had ever heard. As if someone had thrown a switch, the crowd went quiet. Sydney considered herself a bit tone-deaf but even she had to admit the singer’s lush body was only half the draw. The faery’s voice was almost hypnotic in its purity. The rapt faces of the tavern patrons suggested they wouldn’t move if the building itself were on fire.
Markus took Sydney by the elbow and steered her through the mob, to an unassuming door in the back corner. She noted the sword-armed fairies—one man and one woman—lounging to either side. Their alert eyes never stopped scanning the crowd.
The woman gave them a brief nod and stepped aside as Markus reached for the door’s handle. The eyes of both guards lingered on Sydney, though they said nothing. Markus motioned her through, came in behind, and closed the door.
The space beyond was a short hallway, leading to a door. To their left, a wooden staircase ascended to the next floor. Another stout door lay to their right.
Markus rapped the door on their right. “Storeroom, also leads to the kitchen, if you get hungry and don’t want to go through the main room.”
He motioned to the door at the end of the hallway. “Down here.”
Sydney followed him. “Who’s your singer?”
“Natasha. You’ll meet her later.”
“Is she one of those assets you talked about?”
Markus grinned. “She is, actually.”
“Nice body and that voice is heavenly. Between the two, I bet she really draws the crowds.”
“Yeah, she’s a regular sex kitten on stage but don’t piss her off. She’s a crack shot with a crossbow.”
To read about more parties and to follow our process in SPFBO 6, please visit my SPFBO 6 Phase 1 page!